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I Challenge You To Care Less

28 April 2010 29 Comments

I am a laid-back mom. These days it feels shameful to admit it. Obviously I love, adore and would do anything in the world for my two boys. Maybe it’s the two-plus years of sleep deprivation but over time I’ve come to realize that I’m lacking a certain drive to care about some of the issues many of my mommy friends feel strongly about.

It’s almost a badge of honor in my Manhattan neighborhood to be hyper-competitive over all things parenting. I didn’t apply to ten different preschools like everyone else I know and I don’t agonize over which place my toddler should take his gym class. My two year old has not yet mastered potty training and he only speaks one language-and not very well at that.

I’m not sure why I don’t feel that intensely about the “right” this or the “best” that. I do feel kind of chagrined when I am part of these emotional conversations between other moms because I’m more interested in topics like “Is My Son Happy?” “Is He Hitting His Milestones?” or the mealtime favorite “How Can I Get Him To Try New Foods?”

As long as I like my son’s school and feel that’s it’s an appropriate environment and we have a caring, knowledgeable doctor I’m happy and comfortable with that. I don’t have an eco-friendly wipe at the ready the moment a drop of food falls. In my house it’s pretty much guaranteed that there will be crumbs or a dog hair on something and this doesn’t bother me. It’s not as if we live in squalor, we have a housekeeper clean once a week and we try our best to maintain order but two little boys plus two rambunctious dogs means the neat freak in you has long since flown the coop.

When I was pregnant and for a few months after my first son was born I was as nervous and anxious as any first-time mommy. I truly believed that having a certain playmat, book or toy would give my baby an advantage. I made myself crazy reading all the expectant mom books as though they held the key to unlocking the mystery of being a parent.

Maybe it was getting pregnant with the second one eight months after the first was born that made me less interested in what feels like small stuff or maybe I’m just too tired to care. Regardless of the cause, I wish my mom friends cared less about getting the best birthday cake and and more about the party. It’s a lot more fun this way.

Robin Saks Frankel is the founder of Crib Notes (www.cribnotesbaby.com), a free monthly e-newsletter for parents of kids ages zero to three. She’s also a writer, a mother of two boys (1 toddler and 1 infant) and somehow still finds the time to watch Gossip Girl and Family Guy. When she’s not watching trashy TV, she can usually be found attached to her iPhone Facebooking, Tweeting or playing Words With Friends. Robin, her husband, kids and two dogs somehow manage to coexist peacefully in Manhattan. Robin received her M.S. in Business and Economics Journalism from Boston University but still can’t tell you what credit derivatives are. Follower her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/cribnotes

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  • Martina said:

    I am pretty laid back too. I don’t remember all those statistic numbers that the Dr’s throw at you. I don’t always remember what percentile my child is in. If my child crawls at 6 months, great! If not, I am usually not concerned. The only concern that I ever had was when my daughter was not walking until 15 months. Found out that it was due to undiagnosed ear infections. I know in my head (& heart) where I want my kids to spend time, so I don’t usually waste my time researching facilities. Why stress over things that really won’t change things in the long run? This does not make anyone a bad mommy/daddy. My child knows I love them & they know I make decisions based on what I believe is in their best interest.

  • angela tuttle said:

    One thing I’ve become more relaxed about are germs! With my son I wouldn’t allow him to play with friends even after a cold ehrn their nose was still just a little runny, I know now thanks to my second that you really can’t protect them against the world like that, if their gonna get it their gonna get it!

  • Tomi said:

    Being a parent has definitely made me less relaxed about being working outside the home. Before the children I was so adamant about being a SAHM. However, after the children I realized I can work outside the home and still be a great and nurturing parent. I can still volunteer at their school, attend their plays and assemblies. I applaud SAHM, but I also applaud moms who work outside the home and participate in their child’s lives.

  • Lauren Senese said:

    I couldn’t agree with you more, Robin. Having a child who has missed milestones, I learned the hard way what the important things are, for me, with regards to raising my son. Mostly these days, I’m just thankful for his day-to-day health. Everything else is a bonus! Good seeing you the other day.

  • Jen said:

    Having my second child really made me relax, sounds funny I know. When I had my son, my daughter was 4.5yo and she was(is) wonderful, bight, caring and well rounded. It was only then that I realized what I didn’t know with my daughter… relax and everything will be okay! I feel like I am doing a much better job this time around. Things aren’t perfect, there are dishes in the sink and my carpet hasn’t seen a vaccuum in a while. But, I did get to play 5 rounds of “Candy Land” this morning and figured out a way to make my 6month old son laugh histerically.

  • Jocelyn said:

    I am a long sufferer of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder so when my first child was born I had a really hard time with keeping the house clean, floors done,..etc. After countless nights of no sleep because I would wake my son by accident trying to straighten wrinkles in his blankets I finaly realized I had to relax and accept that things are going to get dirty, and a wrinkled blanket isn’t the end of the world.

  • Beth Barbara said:

    Well I consider myself pretty laid back-hopefully you agree. I have gone a little crazy with the birthday parties-but they have still been fun. And I think my feelings on the classes changed after being so psyched that my daughter got into a class we had been on a 6 month waiting list for, only to take it and think it was one of the worst classes ever!

  • Pamela Martel said:

    Our child hasn’t arrived yet, I am due on May 14th, and sometimes I already feel like I am not “normal”. I don’t care about having all the newest stuff, the best preschool or the cleanest house. (Would I like my house to be cleaner, you bet, but do I want to spend all my “extra” time cleaning, no way!)

    It is nice to see that there are others out there who are not stressing about the ‘small stuff’. I also have two dogs (and two cats) and just can’t see myself vacuuming every day. I figure that the kid might as well get used to hair because the animals aren’t going anywhere and since I haven’t invented a way to get more hours in the day, the house will be the way it is, slightly hairy.

  • Jen Hartwig said:

    I love this post! We are so overloaded these days about “What is Best for Your baby” “You MUST breastfeed” You know what? I (underlined, bold!) know what is best for my daughter.
    I don’t make all of her food; I didn’t beastfeed her until she was 12 months old… in fact, she had formula a few times a day from the time she was a month old. I work because I like working, and I like being my own person. Today, there’s the pressure to be the “perfect” mother; people try to make you feel bad if you don’t give up your entire existance for your child; if you don’t feed them all organic you are poisoning them. I say, we all know what is best for our children. The most important thing is that we love them, and we keep them safe and healthy.
    A little dirt never hurt anyone :)

  • Erin said:

    Very well said !! I have to admit I was much more relaxed the second time around. With my first, I wanted to make sure not a drop of juice or sugar was given to him before his first birthday. Now with my second son, I didn’t freak if someone let him have a taste of the ice cream.
    As far as cleanliness, I try to keep things clean and picked up but with a 3 yr old and a 9 mo old it is just about impossible to clean and have it stay clean for more than an hour.
    As far as moms being competitive with one another, I seem to notice it most with topics like sleeping through the night, breast or bottle soon to be followed by whether or not they are using a sippy cup, pacifiers, and letting your child watch tv. Honestly, it seems that most things are fine in moderation and others really just don’t matter that much.

  • Elizabeth Keller said:

    My floors. All kinds: carpet, tiles, rugs, car floors…
    I got a maid certificate for Xmas and just got to use it last month (saved it for a special occasion). As we were gathered for dinner, I was enjoying the cleanness of my house and especially the shine on my kitchen floor (didn’t know it could do that). The moment lasted for a good 45 seconds before my toddler threw half his dinner on the ground and my nephew came in with mud on his shoes. 45 glorious seconds. As I think how lucky we are to HAVE food on our table and a backyard to play in, I am thankful. I do still, however, like to think back to those 45 seconds and know that at one point, my house was clean!

  • Larissa said:

    Great article! I’ve always been a neat freak and I can’t stand messes. I have four kids under three and they have almost cured me of this:)Getting down on the floor with my son and playing cars, and spending time with my girls is so much more enjoyable when I stop stressing about everything else that needs to be done and just have fun.

  • diana said:

    thank you so very much for sharing your story its so funny how much we relate with 3 kids and baby # 4 scheduled for c section may 19th i have to be more laid back than ever they are 10 , 6, ,3 and soon newborn thanks for sharing love reading these stories

  • diana said:

    i shared on my facebook

  • Nicole N said:

    wow, to be laidback… must be nice! I’m trying to be less neurotic but I’m a planner and a detail person… I seriously hope little one is more like her daddy in this respect.

  • Nikki said:

    Both of my kids have heart defects and with my first, I obsessed over everything. Everything had to be clean (in case we had unexpected visitors coming to see how he was doing) He always had to be dressed in matching, clean, wrinkle free clothes because we might end up in the ER and I didn’t want to look like the sloppy mom!

    With my second being a preemie (31 weeks) and having a more severe heart defect than his brother, I’ve learned to let the little things slide! Of course I keep things clean, because their health is very important, especially with their hearts not being 100% but I’ve also started letting go of some of my more compulsive behavior. I can enjoy my children and my life more now than I ever could before!

    It took tragedy to put things in perspective!

  • Michelle said:

    I have learned to be less stressed and worried about money. times are tough for my husband and I but we learnt together that as long as we are all healthy, everything will be just fine. Money is not everything and just the fact that we can smile and show love to our daughter every second of the day, that is the main thing! Enjoy your children and always look at the half full glass! xoxo

  • Harmony said:

    it doesnt matter what others think of you, some issues may be more important to you than others for your child, as long as you do what you think is best for your child, im sure your doing a great job!

  • Crystal Morgan said:

    I hear ya on not caring about the little details. I get sick of all the “right” advice that I never asked for anyway. I’m just happy that my daughter is happy, healthy and growing at an appropriate rate. If she will excel, it will be because that is her nature. I definitely don’t want to stiffle my daughter’s growth and development, but I don’t think having the “best” of everything will help her achieve that anyway.

  • Susan said:

    We are expecting our 5th child in July. At times there has been no money, but there has always been plenty of love. My children don’t participate in dance classes, sports, playgroups and all of that, they have multiple siblings to play with and social activities through church and friends. We homeschool and I have stayed at home since my husband and I were engaged. My husband is self-employed and lost his business a couple years ago due to the “recession”. We have had to trust God with our finances, our marriage, our children and everything in between. It really makes you focus on what is important, also when you are busy with several young children, you are far less concerned with what others are doing and the little things definitely fall by the wayside like brand name clothing and your baby can read, things like that. When I had one child and all the time in the world on my hands, my house was immaculate and he learned to read fluently at three years old. Right now, I am still trying to potty train my two year old and my about to turn six year old is just now learning to read.
    If they are dressed, fed, and happy (and not necessarily in that order) I am happy and doing well as a parent. Do I know what playgroups and sports and dance classes and swimming lessons are? of course, but my children are too busy living life as part of a family that loves them and wants to know them, who they are, to mold that little person into a happy, caring, responsible, intelligent and productive human being that will be a valued member of society.

  • Suzy said:

    I am expecting with my first and I hope to be laid back. After teaching for 14 years, I have come to realize when to ignore and when to address certain behaviors.

  • Alexis said:

    I will admit I wasn’t very laid back to begin with. It’s really hard because the media makes you think you need all the gadgets, and as a new mom I worried about everything. My daughter is now almost 2 (that is crazy to say!), and I feel like I am really starting to relax now. I know I’ll do things differently the next time around as well. You are lucky that you didn’t feel the need to give in, and just parented from the heart. It’s honestly the best way to go!

  • Leslie S said:

    I don’t obsess over getting my kids in the “right” classes/activities/preschools either. Kids today are so over-scheduled, there isn’t any time left for family! Even though our kids are still little, we love our time together to just hang out and just “be”.

  • Carrie said:

    I am more relaxed about time, I like to be prompt and on time but having a child doesn’t always allow that, even if I try to feed her an hour before we need to go she might not want it til 5 minutes. Her being happy is WAY more important then being on time.

  • Sarah Bass said:

    I’m pretty laid back. My kids don’t go to daycare because I’m afraid of germs and sickness but we make sure to schedule frequent playdates for them to make sure that they’re being exposed to other kids and other germs outside of our household. My 2.5 year old is so protective of our 5 month old – when another kid sneezes he’ll tell them “bless you into your elbow” just as a reminder :)

  • Myha Nguyen said:

    that is funny, elizabeth. i used to be very anal about cleanliness, especially with my first child. with my second child, i have learned that he will not die if he dropped his cheerio on the carpet and picked it up to eat it. i’ve changed soooo much! i’m still a clean freak, sterilizing momma, but i’ve learned that i (and my children) will not die if we are dirty once in a while!

  • Adrienne Dollyhigh said:

    I’m way more relaxed about germs. That’s not to say that I don’t have hand sanitizer in the house, car, and purse, but I find that I use it less that I used to.

  • Amanda said:

    Being a first time Mom, I wanted the best of everything for my daughter. And then I realized that if I wasn’t at my best, I couldn’t provide the emotional and material things she needed. So, I have learned to relax ME! It’s okay if the laundry doesn’t get done on Sundays for the week ahead; it’s okay if our dinner is from the microwave steamers instead of freshly picked out of a garden; it’s okay if she eats baby food that isn’t labeled “organic” (as if we can truly believe it is anyway, right?). But it isn’t okay if I’m too stressed about the small stuff to remember the most important part of being a mom: having fun with my daughter and teaching her by example.

  • Jessica said:

    Thank you for your great article. I have an almost 7 year old, almost 3 year old and a 4 month old. I am way less stressed about crumbs and dust on the floor! Not totally…but less stressed! Also with my first I was into that whole scheduled nap time thing…not so much anymore. There’s no time left to worry about such things!

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